“Hostels” in South East Asia are really just American hotels without amenities like a gym, pool, or spa.
The misconception is so widespread and common that many hostels in South East Asia have actually now changed their name to “hotel” or “home stay”.
When you think of backpacking or budget traveling, one of the first things that comes to mind is: hostels.
We love hostels. They are great value for money, they’re usually located in the central central part of town, you get to meet a ton of cool people (many of whom you realize are no different from yourself), and they often leave you with amazing memories. On the other hand, they also stir up emotions about bed bugs, cockroaches, used condoms, blood stained sheets, unsanitary bathrooms… errr did we just make a pro and con list for staying in hostels?
Okay lets get back to the point – hostels are awesome. If you are a frequent traveler and don’t fear the stigma around hostels (thanks Eurotrip and Just Married), chances are you’ll have stayed in a hostel that far exceeded your expectations, but you’ve also found yourself crying in a corner of the hostel from hell. Hey its not all that bad, if you’re reading this you didn’t die, did you? Nasty hostels: Its just part of the probability model.
You always get your own room with a private bathroom when you stay at “hostels” in SE Asia.
One thing I want to mention about us – full disclosure – is we are what Aussies call “flashpackers”. We are backpackers that splurge a little more for the fancies of our OWN room. I honestly hate sharing bathrooms (I’m super OCD and I WILL start cleaning the entire bathroom before I use it), yet its something I can suck up and live with it. But moreso, I DESPISE the thought of sharing bedrooms with other people! It’s just a huge N-O for me. Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever actually been in a shared dorm, like ever! Before you stop reading and write me off as a brat, I have anxiety and it really goes against sharing a room with a stranger, let alone 8-10 other strangers. What if I wanna be on my phone at 3 in the morning, but I don’t wanna disturb everyone with the blue light? What if I suddenly get the runs one night and I’m on the top bunk? What if one of my roomies thinks its okay to talk on the phone with her boyfriend in the room for 3 hours straight? What about all my STUFF? Yes, we get lockers I know, but my friend has had his headphones and shirt stolen (weird combo, I know). Another couple we met said that they’ve been in the room while one of their roomies was engaging in intercourse, YUCK! I’m just not down with that… sorry.
So when Tung and I stay in hostels, we always pay a little more to get a private double room. Now what I want to mention in this post is hotels in South East Asia – they aren’t the regular hostels you’ll find in Europe, South America, or Australia. They are more like 1 – 3 star hotels. What this means is hostels in SE Asia are just hotel rooms without the amenities like a gym, pool, or spa. You always get your own room meaning you don’t need to be in a shared dorm, unless you are trying to find a share dorm which is a super small percentage out of all the accommodation available (good luck!). You have cleaners coming into your room everyday to make the bed and replace your towels, you don’t have to pay extra for AC, you get a mini fridge in every room and usually also a safe. The rooms do tend to be smaller than a regular hotel but never so small that you’re cramped up and have to your belongings are outside your room.
“Hostels” in SE Asia don’t typically have a common social area – blessing or disappointment?
We only stay in hostels in Viet Nam. “Hostels” – as we call them. Honestly guys, they are just a cheaper, no frills version of a hotel room. Of course you’ve got to do your own due diligence by checking out the rooms in person first, or reading reviews and looking at pictures on Booking.com or TripAdvisor as I’m sure theres some nasty accommodation options out there, but besides that you are pretty safe with staying in “hostels” when in SE Asia. We’ve personally never found ourselves in a hostel from hell when in SE Asia.
So if you are “bratpackers” like us that think you’ll need to splurge and only stay at Sheraton, Hilton, Marriott, or any of the other big hotel chain names in order to get your own room, YOU’RE IN LUCK! Hostels in SE Asia are our go-to for accommodation all the time, every time. They are super cheap: think 1/3rd to 1/10th of the price of a big chain hotel. I think a lot of travelers are prepared to spend their nights in a bunk in a shared dorm and share a bathroom to save money, but are pleasantly surprised when they arrive to find that they get their own bed, room, and bathroom. Another thing to note is there typically aren’t any common areas like a lounge or kitchen. That doesn’t bother us but that might disappoint travelers that love the social aspect of staying in hostels.
In closing, before you go and book 5 nights at Saigon Novotel like my ridiculous friend Jenny did (don’t worry I made that girl cancel her booking, sheesh), look forward to the fact that you get your own private room and bathroom when staying at a hostel in SE Asia, YAY! The misconception is so widespread and common that these hostels have actually now changed their name to “hotel”. In doing so, they now have to incorporate the star system so a hostel usually converts into a 1-3 star hotel. Erase the stigma that you have around hostels, especially the ones in South East Asia. Now that I’ve saved you some money and some worries, go on and book your flight and accommodation 😉 Might I interest you in Thailand? Vietnam? Cambodia? Laos?
We’re currently in Ubud, Indonesia and planning to wake up at 6am (ugh in 4 hours) to see the sun rise over the rice fields! Be sure to follow us in instagram for wicked photos of this country’s beautiful landscapes!